I consider myself lucky: I really like my job. Not sure about you, but I was never the type who knew exactly what I wanted to do in life. One day, I wanted to study architecture, another day medicine, and the next journalism. Since I wasn’t able to make up my mind, I went into science.
Why did I decide to earn a PhD? There weren’t that many job options when I finished my bachelor’s so after a year working as an intern in a pharmaceutical company, doing a PhD seemed like a good idea. I remember the doubts and anxiety I had when I was doing my PhD at the University of Barcelona. My dissertation was about a study looking at the impact of malaria on mother-to-child transmission of HIV in rural Mozambique, so I was able to do some field work in Africa. Not being a medical doctor, it was hard to see how I could use the skills I was learning during my PhD to do something more applied and still have an impact. Sure, I liked what I was doing and I enjoyed the field work, but could I ever make a living doing it? There isn’t much malaria or HIV work in Europe. The field experience in Mozambique grew my interest in global health and I decided to complement my PhD with a master’s in public health (MPH) in epidemiology. I received a full scholarship from La Caixa Foundation to study for an MPH at Columbia University and jumped at the opportunity.
And then I found ICAP.
ICAP, situated at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, supports programs and research that address major health issues such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal and child health, and non-communicable diseases. It’s quite amazing to think that, since 2003, and mainly through funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States, more than 2.3 million people have received HIV care and over 1.4 million have begun antiretroviral therapy through ICAP-supported programs.
Since 2009, I have worked at ICAP as an Epidemiologist. After being the lead Strategic Information Specialist for several sub-Saharan African countries, I am now the Acting Deputy Director for Implementation Support at the Strategic Information Unit.
ICAP works in partnership with governmental and non-governmental organizations and we are currently working in more than 3,000 health facilities across 21 countries. Of the 21 countries ICAP supports, I’m lucky to have been able to work and visit 10 (and counting).
Over the next week, I will share more about the work ICAP does and the work that I do, as well as some insight into the fields of epidemiology and global public health.
Before we get started, let me also tell you a bit more about myself. I’m originally from Spain, but have spent the last 8 years in NYC. I have an 8-month old baby girl and a great, supportive partner who has helped me find a manageable work-life balance. My partner is a filmmaker so even though our backgrounds are very different, it’s great to be able to go home and share our passions. I have always admired how easy it is for films to connect with people and advocate for important matters. My partner and I have discussed combining our work fields and one day shooting a film related to global health in Africa. In the meantime, I thought I would give my “week in the life” blog a twist by adding a movie of the day to each of the posts. Let’s get started…
MOVIE OF THE DAY: “Contagion”
If there is a recent movie that has contributed to conveying to people the meaning and importance of the field epidemiology, it would definitely be Contagion.
Kate Winslet explaining the basic reproductive number (R0) was just priceless! If you haven’t had an opportunity to see the movie and are curious, R0 is the number of cases that one case generates on average over the course of its infectious period. For instance, the basic reproductive number for measles is 12-18. So please vaccinate your kids!
What I also found amusing about the movie is that Steven Sodenberg, the director, asked a renowned professor at Columbia University to watch the rough cut of the movie and the professor noted some inaccuracies, resulting in the director having to reshoot one of the scenes. It’s great they aimed for accuracy, but I’m sure the producers weren’t too excited about the extra expense of reshooting.